The Supreme Court of Texas on Monday issued its 18th Emergency Order related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order amends existing provisions from the 17th Emergency Order issued May 26.

According to a Supreme Court Advisory on the order, the notable changes are:

Modifications of civil- and criminal-case deadlines and procedures extended no later than September 30. Texas courts may modify or suspend deadlines for civil and criminal cases (except in child-welfare cases) but for a stated period no later than September 30.

Extends ban on jury proceedings to September 1. A court must not hold a jury proceeding, including jury selection or a jury trial, before September 1, with exceptions for specially authorized jury trials before then.

Extends deadline to September 1 for limited jury proceedings. The Office of Court Administration, in coordination with the state’s regional presiding judges and local administrative judges, should assist trial courts in a limited number of jury proceedings before September 1, whether in-person or by remote proceedings involving trial and grand jurors. No later than August 15 the Office of Court Administration must recommend to the Court provisions for jury proceedings based on its evaluations of specially authorized jury proceedings.

Civil-case filing and service deadlines extended to September 15. Any deadline for the filing or service of any civil case that falls on a day between March 13 and August 1 is extended until September 15. As previous emergency orders have noted, this does not include deadlines for perfecting appeals or for other appellate proceedings.

Deadlines in child-protection cases. For parental-rights-termination suits the order clarifies provisions in the May 26 emergency order for extending the one-year statutory dismissal deadline for cases that have not been tried. The new order states that in all proceedings under the Family Code’s provisions for termination cases courts may extend the initial dismissal date as calculated under Section 263.401(a) only as provided by Section 263.401(b) or (b-1). The order also specifies that for any case previously retained on the court’s docket pursuant to Section 263.401(b) or (b-1) or for any case for which the dismissal date was previously modified under a COVID-19 emergency order, a court may extend the dismissal date no more than 180 days from June 29, the date of the order.

Other deadlines:
Eliminates further deadline extensions on attorney-discipline and -disability cases and specifies that hearings may be conducted remotely.

Eliminates deadline extensions for Judicial Branch Certification Commission-sanctioned issuance or renewal of certifications, licenses or registrations or for fulfilling mandatory continuing education.

The order continues its admonition that courts must not conduct in-person proceedings contrary to guidance by the Office of Court Administration and, before conducting in-person proceedings, must submit a plan that complies with the Office of Court Administration’s requirements.

This latest emergency order expires August 31 unless the chief justice extends it.

Laura Dawn Ouin is the founder of Third Coast Mediation & Communication in Dallas, Texas, and is passionate about conflict resolution in all forms. Equipped with over 20 years of experience in business development, conflict resolution and communication development, she facilitates solutions through strategic mediations as well as developing written communication for web, press releases, and media distribution. When it is critical that your audience needs to understand your message, Laura Dawn helps you be heard.

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